Pizza... a whole post about pizza

Tuesday, November 8, 2011
It's no secret that pizza is my favorite food. I literally could eat it every day, twice a day even and never tire of it. It's just the perfect, versatile vehicle for whatever you want... breakfast pizza with eggs and bacon, quattro formaggio for the cheese obsessed in me, you can even make a dessert pizza. It can be cooked in the oven or on the grill when the weather is nice or in a pizza oven in your backyard kitchen (not that I've dreamed about that or anything). Really, who doesn't love it?

See? Versatile!  If you tear a hole in the dough, no big deal! I decided it was finally time to find and write down my go to recipes for pizza.  This weekend I made a batch of dough, invited some friends over to help, eat and critique and here are the results.

My Favorite Pizza Combinations:
  • Margarita- Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella, Fresh Basil 
  • Sausage, Caramelized Onions, White Sauce and Mozzarella Cheese - pretty self-explanatory
  • Pesto, Pancetta, Mozzarella and Ricotta (thanks for the ricotta addition, Sticky!)

This was all that was left. We ate the pizzas hot out of the oven-- no time to take pics!

Tips, Thoughts
  • If you're using fresh mozzarella packed in water, make sure to squeeze out/drain off as much of the water as you can so the pizza isn't soggy
  • Precook any meats.  This is pretty obvious for some meats (like sausage) but for others (like pancetta), it helps to start the cooking before topping the pizza as the pizzas don't stay in the oven, on the grill for too long!
  • Prep and cook on a piece of parchment paper.  Tear off a piece of parchment, sprinkle it with cornmeal, press out your dough.  Then all you have to do is slide that into the oven on top of the pizza stone.  It makes removing the cooked pizza so easy since you can just grab a corner of the paper and slide it back onto the pizza peel.

  • While your shaping the pizza crust, if the dough springs back, stop and let it rest for a 5-10 minutes.  This will let the gluten simmer down and then you can stretch the dough again.
  • Maybe one day I'll be able to toss pizzas (Linda, I hear you're a pro! Maybe I can get a lesson some time), but it the meantime, this is what I do.  Start with the ball of dough, flatten into a disc and then just keep flattening and pushing outward until you form a round pizza crust.
  • Pizzas are very party friendly!  You can do most of the prep work before your friends, family comes over.  Then have everyone top their own pizzas.  It helps that I have a few ovens at my disposal considering our friends are our neighbors, but the good thing is that the pizzas don't cook for long, so you can just keep the oven burning!
Mise en Place
Pizza Prep

  • You could substitute all purpose flour for the bread flour but don't... just go buy the bread flour, it's worth it.
  • Weigh your flour, it's much more accurate.  Also, I weigh my dough balls to ensure they're the same size.

Pizza Dough
Adapted from Baking Illustrated
Makes 3 medium pizzas

I've found this dough to be both forgiving and flexible.  You can let it rise immediately after kneading it, so that it's ready in a couple of hours for forming crusts and topping.  Or you can let it rise overnight in the fridge and then continue to rise at room temperature the following day.  This is great because you can do what works for your circumstances.  Be sure to read the whole recipe for each method.

½ cup warm water (about 110 degrees, or 25ish seconds in the microwave)
1 envelope (about 2¼ tsp) instant yeast (same thing as Fleischmann's Rapid Rise)
1¼ cups room temperature water
¼ cup olive oil
22 oz (approximately 4 cups) bread flour, plus more for dusting
1½ teaspoons salt

In a bowl or a liquid measuring cup, add the water and then sprinkle in the yeast.  Let it stand until the yeast swells and dissolves.  Add room temperature water and olive oil.

Combine the flour and salt in a large (at least 11 cup) food processor bowl with the plastic dough blade.  While pulsing, slowly pour in the liquid ingredients reserving a few tablespoons.  The dough should easily form a ball, if not add remaining liquid until it does.  Process the dough for approximately 30-60 seconds longer until it's smooth.  You can also prepare the dough in your stand mixer or by hand.

Liberally flour your clean counter and turn out the dough from the bowl.  It will be pretty sticky.

Straight from the food processor
Flour your hands and knead a few times until it's smooth.

After a few kneads
Form a round ball and place in a large, oiled bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, 1½-2 hours.

Ready to Rise
If you want to prepare your dough ahead of time, here's what you do. First, reduce the amount of yeast to 3/4 teaspoon and then proceed with the recipe as written above. Instead of leaving it to rise in a warm spot, place it in the fridge.  The original recipe says to leave it in the fridge for no more than 16 hours.  Mine was in there close to 24 and it was just fine.  About 4-6 hours before you're ready to pizza prep, remove the dough from the fridge and allow it to rise until it's doubled in size.

After your dough has doubled in size (whichever way you get there), punch the dough to deflate it and divide it into 3 equal size pieces.  At this point, I still had some time before I was ready to prep so I put my little dough balls back in the fridge (covered with plastic wrap) until I was ready.  Just let them come to room temp before proceeding.

Shape your crust, top with toppings and bake on a pre-heated pizza stone at the highest temperature your oven will allow until the crust has browned and the cheese is bubbling.

Tomato Sauce

1 28oz can crushed tomatoes (I like the Muir Glen Organic variety with basil that you can find at Whole Foods)
1 tsp brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs olive oil

Heat olive oil in a sauce pan.  Add garlic and sizzle for a couple of minutes.  Then add tomatoes and brown sugar.  Bring to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes or until it's thickened up.  Salt and pepper (or red pepper) to taste.

Garlic White Sauce

My basic formula for a white sauce is 1 to 1 to 1-- that's 1 Tbs butter to 1 Tbs Wondra flour to 1 cup milk.  I deviate slightly from that ratio when I make it for pizza as I want it a bit thicker, so I cut the milk by ½.

2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs Wondra flour (I suppose you could use all purpose flour, but go buy some Wondra and keep it in your fridge, you'll be thankful)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup milk (I tend to use skim because that's what we have in the fridge)
Parmesan cheese, grated

In a skillet, melt the butter.  Sprinkle flour into skillet while whisking.

Whisk, whisk, whisk while you cook out the raw flour, about 3 minutes.  Add the minced garlic and continue to whisk for another minute or two.

While this mixture is cooking, heat your milk, not to the point of a boil but warmer than room temperature.  This will help the sauce come together.

Add the milk SLOWLY to the butter and flour mixture.  SLOWLY.  Add a little, whisk until it's combined.  Add a little more, whisk a little more.  This will help you achieve a smooth sauce.  After all the milk is incorporated, bring the mixture to a simmer and simmer until thickened.

You know the spoon trick, right?  If you draw a line and it stays, your sauce has thickened!
Stir in the cheese.  Season with salt and black pepper.
2 comments on "Pizza... a whole post about pizza"
  1. Do you think anybody will be able to recreate the Salerno's original white pizza? I still dream about that delicious meal.

  2. Oh my gosh, my mouth is watering. Next time... next time I'm going for a Salerno's white pizza! I'll let you know how it goes. They now have a website but of course, no description of the original white pizza! Maybe I need to make a trip to Lex!